Why and How Businesses Support the Arts: Business Committee for the Arts National Triennial Survey

Posted by Emily Peck, Dec 07, 2010 0 comments

Since 1968, the Business Committee for the Arts (BCA) has conducted a field-wide survey of businesses to determine why they support the arts, to what extent they support the arts, and how they support the arts. Conducted by Shugoll Research, the 2010 BCA Triennial Survey of Business Support to the Arts is the only survey in the United States that tracks support from small, midsize, and large companies to provide the most complete view of the arts funding landscape from businesses nationwide.

Why Business Supports the Arts

What’s the most important determinant of why a business that gives to the arts might increase its support? Profitability. Businesses make decisions based on bottom line. After profitability, respondents chose a “link to social causes or education” as the next most important factor in deciding to support the arts.

For example, Northeast Utilities, a 2010 BCA 10 award recipient, has an ongoing partnership with one Hartford area elementary school.  A $500,000 grant from the NU Foundation provided funding to enable The R.J. Kinsella Elementary School to transform itself into a K-8 arts-based magnet school.  According to Northeast Utilities Chairman, President and CEO, Charles W. Shivery, “Northeast Utilities and its companies embrace the important role played by the arts in energizing the social, economic and educational fabric of our communities.”

This is mirrored in CECP’s 2010 Giving in Numbers report which showed that the only programs that experienced an increase in cash contributions were those that served basic needs, such as Health and Social Services and Community and Economic Development. For example, New York-based Deutsche Bank, a company that recognizes the important role the arts play in community revitalization, showed great leadership in this arena when it developed the Art and Enterprise grants program in 2002 to foster relationships between low- and moderate-income communities and arts organizations to affect positive social and economic change. Since 2002, the bank has given more than $4.4 million to fund innovative partnerships and the creation of new cultural destinations in once-neglected neighborhoods.

To What Extent Does Business Support the Arts

According to the 2010 BCA Triennial Survey of Business Support to the Arts, giving to the arts fell 14 percent from 2006–2009, declining in small, mid-size, and large business categories alike. But among the negative numbers is some encouraging news.

The first hopeful statistic is that the percentage the arts receive of total corporate philanthropic contributions from small, midsize and large businesses is actually up slightly from 13 percent in 2006 to 15 percent in 2009. So while funding is dropping, the arts are getting a slightly bigger piece of the pie. Also, among the decreased number of businesses that continue to support the arts, median giving actually rose among small businesses (from $500 to $700) and mid-size businesses (from $2,000 to $2,250). As a result, small and mid-size businesses more than ever contribute the largest share of arts dollars. Small businesses contribute 69 percent, mid-size businesses contribute 24 percent, and large businesses contribute seven percent. Of course, this is driven by the large number of small businesses in America. According to CECP’s 2010 Giving in Numbers data report, which surveys over 170 large companies, including 61 of the Fortune 100, the average program area allocation to culture and arts remained steady at 6% from 2008 to 2009.

How Business Supports the Arts

In another interesting shift this year, 60 percent of small and 57 percent of mid-sized businesses include non-cash or in-kind giving to arts organizations. While small businesses on average give a low dollar amount to the arts, non-cash giving continues to provide an avenue for arts organizations to get support from the business community—especially of donated goods and services. According to CECP’s Giving in Numbers, non-cash giving rose by 16% over the previous year, while two-thirds of companies reduced cash contributions, dropping to its lowest point in four years.

This commitment to non-cash giving is true for BCA 10 award winner, Strata-G which will be providing two Cincinnati area arts organizations marketing services, pro-bono, for a full year. “Being nominated for and winning the BCA 10 award further reinforced in us the role that business can play in supporting area non-profits,” Strata-G managing partner Jeff Eberlein said.

About Business Committee for the Arts

The Business Committee for the Arts, or BCA, is a division of Americans for the Arts whose mission is to ensure the arts thrive by encouraging, inspiring, and stimulating businesses to support the arts in the workplace, in education, and in the community.

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